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Unhealthy air prompts some C.O. school districts to revise Monday plans

Prineville Reservoir Webcam Oregon State Parks 913
Oregon State Parks
Murky, smoke-shrouded view in September 2020 at Prineville Reservoir State Park

Crook County on-site classes called off, but distance learning continues; others are closing some school campuses

(Update: Adding Jefferson County, Bend-La Pine info)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- While Crook County schools work to hit one set of numbers --COVID-19 metrics -- to make it possible for older Crook County students to return to classrooms, another number -- the unhealthy air quality index -- prompted cancellation of classroom teaching on Monday.

The Redmond School District, meanwhile, closed some campuses for the same reason, while Jefferson County 509-J will keep its buildings closed. Bend-La Pine Schools begin fall classes with comprehensive distance learning.

"Due to the hazardous air quality forecast for Monday, September 14th, on-site school sessions in Crook County School District will be canceled," Crook County Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson told parents by email Sunday evening.

"The Air Quality Index (AQI) is hovering around 275 in Prineville, which is considered very unhealthy," she wrote. "It’s not expected to improve tomorrow" (Monday).

The Prineville Air Quality Index actually had improved more than elsewhere in Central Oregon, where the DEQ map Sunday evening showed readings still in the hazardous category.

As a result of the poor air quality, Johnson wrote, there will be no on-site school at the following locations:

  • Paulina
  • Brothers
  • Crooked River Elementary
  • Barnes Butte Elementary
  • Steins Pillar Elementary
  • Hybrid Learning Campus at Pioneer

K-3 students won't be engaging in school online, because they don’t have iPads and Chromebooks at home, since they started in the classroom last week. For K-3 students enrolled in the Homeschool Partner Program and Crook County Online Option, school will continue as normal on Monday. 

School also is not canceled for students in grades 4-12 engaged in Comprehensive Distance Learning, Johnson said. Those students are expected to attend classes and engage with their teachers as usual.

Johnson also reminded parents of a new schedule for the free meals delivered by the Transportation Department. You can find the updated schedule on their website.

Johnson told parents, "We will continue to monitor the air quality throughout the day on Monday and provide families with another update tomorrow evening."

Crook County didn't meet the state's COVID-19 metrics the week before Labor Day, so the clock starts over, school district spokesman Jason Carr said Sunday.

That means the soonest the older students could return to in-person classes is now Monday Oct. 5. The state requires three consecutive weeks of improved case case counts to make that happen.

Here's a message released Sunday afternoon by the Redmond School District:

"The health and safety of our students and staff members remains our highest priority. Our district’s Facilities Department has conducted a thorough review of the air quality of all school buildings and has determined that some school buildings will remain closed on Monday September 14th due to continued poor air quality. However all students will still participate in Comprehensive Online Learning.

"Please refer to the following closure status list for RSD school campuses on Monday, September 14th:

  • Elton Gregory Middle School: CLOSED
  • Hugh Hartman Elementary School: OPEN
  • John Tuck Elementary School: OPEN
  • M.A. Lynch Elementary: OPEN
  • Obsidian Middle School: OPEN
  • Redmond High School: CLOSED
  • Ridgeview High School: CLOSED
  • Sage Elementary School:  OPEN
  • StepUP at Edwin Brown: OPEN
  • Terrebonne Community School: OPEN
  • Tom McCall Elementary School: OPEN
  • Tumalo Community School: OPEN
  • Vern Patrick Elementary School: OPEN

"If your student’s school is closed and you have an appointment scheduled for Monday, September 14th, your school staff will be contacting you to reschedule. All outdoor activities in the Redmond School District are canceled.

"Online Comprehensive Distance Learning classes will continue as scheduled.

"Redmond School District will evaluate air quality and communicate school closure status daily. Please stay safe and continue to check your email for district air quality updates."

Bend-La Pine Schools are proceeding with their first day of the school year Monday, since all students are in comprehensive distance learning, spokeswoman Julianne Repman said. Lobbies will be open for registration and staff working in the schools, but no students or visitors inside, she said.

Culver schools also are scheduled to begin fall classes Monday, following COVID-19 protocols.

Jefferson County School District 509-J has decided to keep school buildings closed Monday, due to the poor air quality.

The school meal program will operate, but only at the school locations listed below:
Madras High School: 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Bridges High School: 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Warm Springs K-8 Academy: 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Bus stop deliveries will not occur.

All virtual classes will continue as scheduled.The district said it will provide updates if the closures continue beyond Monday.

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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